What kind of people do you swipe to the left on Tinder? Whatever criteria you use, you might want to add “Tinder executive” to the list. Whitney Wolfe, a Tinder co-founder, is letting loose with a barrage of lawsuits directed at Tinder and parent company IAC, full of accusations of sexual harassment and discrimination on the part of the rest of the Tinder executive team, in particular CMO Justin Mateen.
Court documents are full of Wolfe’s text exchanges with Mateen and CEO Sean Rad, which are full of, frankly, unsurprising amounts of sexism (with a dash of anti-Muslim sentiment and a side of casual homophobia) that seem par for the course when it comes to the testosterone-fueled alpha male culture that has infected the Silicon Valley startup scene. Texts between Wolfe and Mateen are the most striking, featuring Mateen calling Wolfe a litany of derogatory names. The exchanges are also a reminder that dating co-workers is often a very bad idea—it seems that Wolfe and Mateen were in a relationship for some period of time during 2013. As you might expect, much of the exchange reads like a bad breakup, although Wolfe never seems to go on the offensive. In a business context, the texts show conclusively that Wolfe’s working conditions were, to say the least, untenable.
Possibly more damaging is a particular exchange between Wolfe and Rad, where Rad deigns to allow Wolfe to call herself a co-founder. It seems that Wolfe was listed as a co-founder in the early going, but court documents suggest she was stripped of that title shortly afterward. In the lawsuit, Wolfe alleges that, when she asked why this happened, she was told that Tinder wouldn’t be taken seriously if a young woman was listed as co-founder, with court documents alleging Mateen said, “being a female co-founder of Tinder was ‘slutty’ because it is an app people use ‘to hook up.’” The exchange with Rad shows a power structure that featured Wolfe on the outside, with everything down to her job title in the hands of her male colleagues—ostensibly, co-founders.
Wolfe was forced to resign in April without severance or vesting of stock options. After news of the lawsuit was broken by TMZ on Monday, Mateen was promptly suspended, with Rad denying that Wolfe was forced to resign due to discrimination of any sort, claiming that, “Whitney’s legal complaint is full of factual inaccuracies and omissions,” and that “we take gender equality very seriously.” In the suit, Wolfe alleges that Mateen called her a whore in front of Rad, with no consequences.
If you’re having a good day, and would rather have a bad day, you can look over the court documents in full, which include screenshots of all the text exchanges in question. If nothing else, they show Mateen to be a hateful egoist. They also serve as a nice reminder that all your favorite apps come from somewhere, and somewhere isn’t always a very nice place.